Pac-12 football: Our 15 bold predictions for the second half of an epic season

rom coaching changes to playoff contenders (and the lawsuit), we sort through the scenarios

Earlier this week, the Hotline provided our midseason review, a unique look at the Pac-12’s best and worst at the halfway point of the season.

Now, let’s look ahead to what should be an exciting stretch run.

The conference features six ranked teams, three Heisman Trophy contenders, a few playoff hopefuls, and a slew of high-profile games.

In rough chronological order, we present our predictions for the second half.

  1. Utah quarterback Cam Rising will not play this season due to a lengthy recovery from knee surgery. To keep opponents guessing, the Utes release blurry drone footage of what appears to be Rising in full uniform, working with the first team. A closer look reveals that it’s 305-pound backup right guard Falcon Kaumatule, who’s wearing No. 7 and a knee brace. Even without Rising, Kyle Whittingham’s Utes win nine games in one of his best coaching jobs.
  2. Before the preliminary injunction hearing in Whitman County, Wash., on Nov. 14, Oregon State and Washington State settle their lawsuit against the Pac-12. The plaintiffs and defendants reach an agreement on a bifurcated governance structure in which an independent arbiter determines which issues affect all 12 schools and which only affect the ‘Pac-2.’ What is the source of the arbiter’s improbable success? He is despised by both sides of the argument. Larry Scott was his name.
  3. On November 12, the day after USC loses to Oregon by 52 points, coach Lincoln Riley caves to public pressure and fires defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
  4. A week later, in front of 73,286 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Trojans hold UCLA to 49 points in a narrow victory. USC fans regard Riley as a genius.
  5. Stanford defeats Cal 12-11 in front of 17,328 fans at Stanford Stadium on the same day. While accompanying the Stanford volleyball team on its trip to USC and UCLA, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips is informed of the outcome.
  6. Oregon State defeats Washington in an overtime thriller, aided by a favorable fourth-down situation that enrages UW but is not reversed by the instant replay booth. However, due to an earlier loss to Arizona, the Beavers fall one game short of a conference championship berth.
  7. On the morning of the USC-Oregon game, ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ broadcasts from Eugene. Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few is the guest picker. The 1987 Oregon graduate predicts a Ducks victory and then uses the occasion to announce Gonzaga’s admission to the Big 12.
  8. Washington State’s Jake Dickert does not leave Pullman to become Michigan State’s next coach, as the Cougars’ second-half slide undermines his candidacy.
  9. Washington’s Kalen DeBoer is given a new contract that doubles his salary to around $8 million per year in order to keep him from becoming Michigan State’s next coach. “I didn’t want to do it,” UW president Ana Mari Cauce admits, “but I wanted to keep my job.”
  10. The Pac-12 apologizes publicly for an egregious officiating decision. We don’t know the details of the blunder or which team will be targeted — Washington State is a safe bet — but the conference doesn’t get through the season without a display of utter incompetence. The only remaining question is whether there is a second. And another.
  11. Arizona State goes winless in Pac-12 play for the first time since joining the conference in 1978, as injuries and a postseason ban prove too much to overcome. When the season is over, the NCAA imposes minor penalties on the Sun Devils for recruiting violations and calls the administration’s self-imposed sanctions excessive. “Bowl prohibitions are so pre-COVID. “We don’t do that anymore.”
  12. Under the leadership of freshman quarterback Noah Fifita, Arizona secures a bowl berth for the first time since 2017. The Big 12 promptly withdraws its invitation to the Wildcats and explains that they joined the conference under false pretenses, claiming to be a basketball school.
  13. Despite a 3-0 start and a month in the spotlight, Colorado fails to make the playoffs. CU fans everywhere rejoice as coach Deion Sanders’ late-season collapse makes him less appealing for openings in college football, the NFL, and the Biden Administration.
  14. Commissioner George Kliavkoff refuses to hold a news conference before the Pac-12 championship game, extending a radio silence that began with the conference’s collapse on Aug. 4. Nobody gives a damn.
  15. A single defeat Washington wins the conference title game over one-loss Oregon and advances to the College Football Playoff, with the Ducks accepting a Fiesta Bowl invitation as a consolation prize. The Huskies win when Oregon, trailing by six points in the final minute, attempts to convert a fourth-and-17 from its own 20. The off-tackle run is unsuccessful, and UW scores the game-winning touchdown.

Everyone should enjoy the stretch run.

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